The Top 8 Shows at Paris Couture Week FW21
From Jean Paul Gaultier’s team-up with Chitose Abe, to Iris van Herpen’s otherworldly designs.
Post-lockdown optimism was apparent at Paris Couture Week Fall/Winter 2021, which saw a number of brands making their runway comeback alongside others that continued to present collections virtually. Here, we round up the top eight shows of the season, ranging from Demna Gvasalia‘s first Balenciaga couture collection, to Jean Paul Gaultier‘s range created in partnership with sacai‘s Chitose Abe.
Pyer Moss‘ Kerby Jean-Raymond made his couture debut with over-the-top designs, like peanut butter jar-shaped gowns and air conditioner unit dresses, that celebrate Black American inventors. For Chanel, Virginie Viard took inspiration from artworks by Édouard Manet and other French painters to create floral embroidery designs; while for Fendi, Kim Jones unveiled dreamy garments in voluminous silhouettes. Iris van Herpen continued to explore 3D printing with looks created eco-consciously with Parley for the Oceans. Offering even more fashion eye candy, Schiaparelli presented surrealist-inspired designs made using contrasting fabrics and colors.
Keep reading for our top picks from this Haute Couture Week.
This season marked a major moment for Balenciaga, as the house made its return to haute couture after 53 years. After wiping the brand’s social media accounts just a few days before the show, Demna Gvasalia honored Cristóbal Balenciaga’s legacy with a music-less presentation at 10 Avenue Georges V. Opening with a series of black suits and coats (one of which was modeled by Ella Emhoff), the collection is dominated by bulbous silhouettes. Several looks were accessorized with giant mushroom hats by Philip Treacy, a design that’s very much reminiscent of Herman Miller‘s Insta-popular Ode lamp. The show closed with a genderless wedding gown that commemorates Cristóbal’s time at the couture house.
Virginie Viard looked to works of art by Berthe Morisot, Marie Laurencin and Édouard Manet for Chanel’s FW21 Couture show. The house’s iconic tweed appeared in a variety of color palettes, while dreamy floral motifs took over various separates. “There are impressionist-inspired dresses, skirts that look like paintings and a long white satin dress punctuated with black bows like Morisot’s,” the creative director explained in a press release. Contrasting with the textured looks, models like Soo Joo Park took the catwalk in clean white pantsuits as well as soft chiffon pieces. Actor and brand ambassador Margaret Qualley closed the show in a beautiful white wedding dress accessorized with a sequined hat and veil.
Kim Jones dressed some of the most iconic supermodels of the ’90s, such as Kate Moss, Christy Turlington and Amber Valletta, for Fendi’s FW21 Couture presentation. Working with Call Me By Your Name director Luca Guadagnino, the designer showed the range via a short film, spotlighting dreamy ballroom gowns adorned with delicate fur petals. Additional standouts include a sleek, white high-collared coat, a strapless dress featuring a pink-to-black gradient, as well as sheer looks covered in floral embroidery.
Loved for his romantic tulle gowns, Giambattista Valli’s FW21 Couture collection is the epitome of post-pandemic fashion. Cloud-like chiffon dresses in pastel tones of pink and blue dominate the range, while an all-black gown styled with a white overcoat offers a pared-down version of the designer’s glamorous creations. “In Paris, there’s an energy that’s so beautiful, so youthful, so fresh. Everybody is out. There is this kind of generosity of happiness and sharing, and being all together and getting this lightness back again,” Valli said in conversation with Vogue, expressing his excitement for life after lockdown.
Continuing to focus on 3D-printed designs, Iris van Herpen has created otherworldly gowns for her latest couture collection. The designer invited world-champion skydiver Domitille Kiger to help unveil her Earthrise gown in the sky, an impressive feat that’s documented in a short film. The 18-look range further included a sustainably minded collaboration with Parley for the Oceans, with five of the dresses made using recycled plastic waste. Also standing out from the lookbook is the beige Magnetosphere dress, a structural garment created in partnership with Rogan Brown using hand- and laser-cut layers.
Perhaps one of the most talked-about brands this Paris Couture Week, Jean Paul Gaultier enlisted sacai’s Chitose Abe as the first guest designer under its relaunch strategy. The Japanese designer fused her signature hybrid construction style with JPG’s iconic corsets and pinstripe suits, while also teaming up with celebrity tattooist Dr. Woo to create special prints. Paying homage to the enfant terrible of fashion, the collection features JPG-inspired pieces throughout, including a cheeky graphic tee emblazoned with the couturier’s moniker.
Kerby Jean-Raymond’s first-ever couture collection for Pyer Moss, “WAT U IZ,” is one to remember. Although postponed due to unexpected weather conditions, the show was successfully held later at the Villa Lewaro in Irvington, New York, the estate of America’s first female self-made millionaire Madam C.J. Walker. Making history as the first Black American designer to show on the Paris Couture Week calendar, Jean-Raymond dedicated the collection — filled with whimsical silhouettes and bold color palettes — to Black American inventors. From a pleated gown framed by a portable air conditioning unit, to a peanut butter jar styled with strappy sandal heels, the collection honors Black entrepreneurs such as Frederick Jones, George Washington Carver and more.
Two years into his tenure at the house, Daniel Roseberry continues to deliver head-turning, surrealist designs for Schiaparelli. Digging into the brand’s archives, the designer created an intricately embroidered matador jacket, paired with asymmetrical stirrup leggings and a statement, dome-shaped headpiece. Extravagant, metallic motifs added drama to the dynamic looks, including an open-chest gown accessorized with a gilded, lung-shaped chest plate — Bella Hadid was just seen wearing the look at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival red carpet.
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